Discipline or Abuse?

A series of disturbing voice notes circulating in the public domain caught the attention of many people this week, in and out of Saint Lucia.

In the voice notes, a father is heard beating and cursing out his 2-year-old child for defecating on his floor. The father took out his frustrations in the most despicable and unacceptable manner hitting the crying child over and over, and at one point shouting, “your mother eh hearing come and take you!”

“I told her come and clean there she not hearing!” the impatient father can be heard yelling in between the vicious beating.

The rest of the now viral audio would be too explicit to repeat.

The man’s photos were circulated along with the audio, and as expected, members of the public had a field day, with many calling for him to be arrested, and the child removed from his custody, with immediate effect. Most people are now wondering why on earth any father would take such drastic action against their own child, and even go as far as recording it.

Since then there have been web articles posted in which the father defends his actions. Even though he claimed the child was potty trained, the man said the toddler still wore diapers at nighttime, which suggests that the child was not fully potty trained, which is not unusual for a 2-year-old. In fact, most children are not fully potty trained until they are five or six years old. Clearly this father had no idea of this, as in one news report he was quoted as saying he’d told the child if they needed to defecate, they knew where the toilet was.

The main issue in all of this was the seeming abuse of this child, in disguise of discipline. Here in Saint Lucia, we continue to have a culture of disciplining children by the belt, even though this has been largely phased out as of late in (most) local schools. We don’t see a problem with hitting our children to discipline them, and this is often referred to as real and necessary “West Indian discipline”. Many people can list both pros and cons with this kind of discipline, but most childcare experts recommend other means. Obviously, the biggest problem with this kind of discipline revolves around whether or not (which studies have claimed there are) long-term consequences are a reality of children who are disciplined in this way. Also, there is the consideration of how much force can a grown person expect to reasonable exert on a child, much less a toddler or baby. The answer to that should be none.

In this latest case, the authorities are investigating, and it is the hope of all that this toddler, and all other children are kept safe from abusive parents by any means necessary.

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